The driving force behind Petero's epic career

When Petero Civoniceva was named Queensland's best player of the 2011 State of Origin series at the age of 35, he made a statement about what personifies a true legend of the game.

After making his NRL debut for the Brisbane Broncos in 1998 as a 22-year-old, the Suva-born Civoniceva built a reputation over the next 15 years as a fearless and uncompromising front-rower into his mid-30s, remaining at the top of his game long after most forwards had sailed off into the sunset.

When the 42-year-old reflects on his career, which included premiership wins with the Broncos in 1998 and 2006, it is with great pride that his best football was not a fleeting moment but a permanent fixture throughout his playing days.

Now named on a short list of 25 legends of the game, from which six will be selected as new members of the National Rugby League Hall of Fame, Civoniceva sat down with NRL.com to explain what motivated him in the post-30 years to keep turning up.

Prior to Game Two of the 2006 State of Origin series Civoniceva was famously told by coach Mal Meninga that a loss would bring down the curtain on his Maroons career. Queensland won, and Civoniceva did not lose a series or his Queensland starting spot until he retired from Origin football in 2011.

''I was always aware of the scrutiny and the doubt that was put on me, and I guess it started in 2006,'' Civoniceva told NRL.com.

''My thoughts were always about proving people wrong because the moment I'd slip or let up is when the calls for retirement would start.''

Former Broncos, Queensland and Kangaroos prop Petero Civoniceva.
Former Broncos, Queensland and Kangaroos prop Petero Civoniceva. ©NRL Photos

When the Broncos failed to make a suitable offer to a 31-year-old Civoniceva in 2007, he believed he would have to head overseas to finish his career.

It was a snub that lit a fire in his belly.

''I thought my career would end in England but I had a call from [then Penrith coach] Matt Elliott after Craig Gower took the opportunity to go to England, and that opened up a spot for a senior player,'' he said.

''My wife and I had to make a decision whether we took our young family across to England or stayed in Australia and gave Penrith my best shot.

''I always felt like I had more to give and that's why now I look back at going to Penrith for four years as an important time in my career because it was almost as though I had to reinvent myself.

''I had to prove myself and win over the Penrith supporters with everything I did. I didn't want to let them down because they had shown so much faith to bring me down there.''

In his first year at the club in 2008 Civoniceva was the Dally M prop of the year, RLPA Player of the Year and won the Ron McAuliffe Medal as Queensland's best player of the Origin series.

''I had a really good first year at Penrith and to win those awards was icing on the cake,'' he said.

''I had wanted to stay at Brisbane but I didn't have time to dwell on it. I had to get over it, and I did because within a blink of an eye I was standing on a training paddock at Penrith.

''There was motivation to prove to everyone that I had more to give. Some part of me too felt like the Broncos had made a bad decision so there were many motivations for me to play at my best.''

Civioniceva certainly did that throughout 309 NRL games, 51 Tests for Australia and Fiji and 33 Origin games for Queensland.

When he played his final State of Origin game in 2011 he was presented with the Ron McAuliffe Medal for the second time, a fitting tribute to the non-negotiable high standards which were deeply ingrained within him.

''You always have that fear of letting people down, so I guess that was one of the things that drove me,'' Civoniceva said.

''Holding on to those rep jerseys was something that pushed me as well. One of my first thoughts when I got my first rep jersey was that I didn't want to be a guy that played one Origin and was never heard of again.

''I wanted to stay in that jersey as long as I could. All of those motivations were part of my mindset right until the very end.''